PREVIEW: Rosemount Irish Invitational

While the first few races of the year were exciting, this second week of the season has bigger and better competition across the board. And on the heels of a huge day for cross country runners all across the state, this morning Rosemount will host their 16th Annual Irish Invitational to wrap up the big competitions of the week. The meet serves as a warmup of sorts, as it's a two-mile course, but the amount of talent that attends is sky high. The course is two laps around a one-mile loop that runs throughout Rosemount High School's Campus, going through baseball fields with about half through woods. There are only two relatively minor inclines, so fast times can surely be achieved. However, a tricky spot in which racers must cross a wooden bridge will provide a challenge to the athletes, especially when running in a big pack. With temperatures projected in the mid-60s and a deep field, expect to see quick times early in the season.

8:05 am - RAAA Youth Girls Mile (5th & Under)
8:15 am - RAAA Youth Boys Mile (5th & Under)
8:45 am -  Boys JV (2 miles)
9:10 am - Girls JV (2 miles)
9:35 am - Boys Frosh (2 miles)
10:00 am - Girls C (2 miles)
10:25 am - Boys C (2 miles)
10:50 am - Girls Varsity (2 miles)
11:15 am - Boys Varsity (2 miles)

In the boys race, three of the 12 individuals ranked in the coaches' preseason poll will be attending, as will four of the 12 ranked teams. Last year's 13th-place finisher Trenton Allen of Eagan (currently ranked 9th) will be one of the top dogs racing on Friday, as will 7th-ranked Luke Labatte of Rosemount. Labatt's advantage of competing at his home venue might be enough to push him to victory, however, despite having familiarity with the course (and the most support from the crowd) on his side, Labatte will not enter as the favorite. That status belongs to Roseville's Acer Iverson, who is ranked 3rd in the state. Last week, Iverson claimed a victory over Chanhassen's trio of lowsticks in a strong early season time of 16:02 for 5k. He outkicked Labatte in the 2017 State 3200m and is the only athlete in the field that has broken 16 minutes over 5k, so he should be expected to lead the pack. Other athletes to watch out for include Minnetonka's Adam Wilkinson, Forest Lake's Charlie Babcock, both Sidney Gross and Oliver Paleen of Highland Park, and Mounds View's three-headed monster of David Dahl, Austin Streit, and Lukas Hessini. In the team battle, led by said-monster, 3rd-ranked Mounds View enters as the favorites, although 7th-ranked Minnetonka and 9th-ranked Rosemount will be clawing to unseat them (White Bear Lake, ranked 11th, will not run their varsity runners as they competed in, and won, yesterday's St. Olaf Showcase). In the virtual meet using last season's 5k bests, Mounds View comes out on top with 52 points, edging out Minnetonka's 128 and Rosemount's 145. But don't sleep on St. Paul Central or Forest Lake either, because with so much talent, the fight for team places should be extremely tight. In such a large meet, a just few seconds can add up to many places.

As deep as the boys' field will be, the girls might just be better. The top 3 runners in the Class AA coaches' ranking will be duking it out this Friday. The winner of last year's Irish Invitational, Minnetonka's Sophie Whicher, will be looking to defend her title, but she faces a bigger challenge this year. She's currently ranked 3rd in state, but she'll have to take down US#16 Anna Fenske and her Farmington teammate, last year's State runner up, and reigning Minnesota Gatorade XC runner of the year Lauren Peterson. Whicher's 11th-ranked teammate Libby Halbmaier will also look to make a splash, and be sure to watch out for Molly Moening of Highland Park, who enters as somewhat of a dark horse. As just a 7th grader, she took 8th place in the State 3200m last spring in a very quick time of 11:01.84. Other ladies to keep an eye out for include Malakai Holloway of Eden Prairie, Morgan Dahl of Mounds View, Mayo High School's Kendall Pfrimmer, and Shakopee's younger sister of Tess Misgen, Kenzie. On the team side, the Minnetonka Girls are ranked as the 2nd-best team in the State for good reason, and stand as the squad to beat with the most depth in the field. In MileSplit's virtual meet, all five scorers project to be in the top 20. That sort of depth results in Minnetonka scoring 47 points, well outpacing Shakopee's score of 125. Coming in third being led by the killer one-two punch of Fenske and Peterson is Farmington in 140.